A foreclosure sign in front of a house in Miami, Fla.
A foreclosure sign in front of a house in Miami, Fla. - 
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Kai Ryssdal: The slide in real estate was punctuated today by the Standard & Poors' Case-Shiller index. It's a snapshot of housing prices in major markets and it is an ugly picture, indeed.

Prices were down more than 11 percent in January from a year earlier. That's the steepest drop in the history of the index, which goes back to 1987.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer has more.

Nancy Marshall Genzer: We're not on a roller coaster ride with these housing prices, it's more like a plunge.

David Wyss: The speed of the fall suggests to me that people are dumping houses.

Standard & Poors chief economist David Wyss says housing prices are falling faster than expected. That could mean bargain basement prices for, well, basements.

Wyss says we had a big party when housing prices were soaring. The housing bubble was biggest in California, Nevada and Florida. Now it's popped, leaving plenty of headaches behind.

Wyss: The ones who had the best time are having the biggest hangovers, but it's hurting all of us.

S&P's index covers 20 high-priced urban areas. Michelle Meyer is an economist at Lehman Brothers. She says prices are lower even in parts of the country where there wasn't a bubble. Homeowner confidence is eroding. Buyers are staying away. Meyer says one culprit is the bad housing news on the front page almost every day.

Michelle Meyer: You know, the biggest housing recession since the Great Depression.

The government agrees with S&P. A federal housing index released today showed prices were down three percent from last year.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.